Eur 400 Million To The European Search Engine Quaero

Part 1 - Announcement

The French news agency AFP recently published an article on the progress of the European search engine Quaero.

The Quaero project was announced last summer by the French president Chirac. AFP has been talking to Jean-Luc Mollet at Thompson, a project leader of the Quaero project. Obviously, he has not been sleeping on the job. A presentation of Quaero will be held at the Agance de lâ innovation industrielle (AII) in January.

Quaero is not a text-based search engine but is mainly meant for multimedia search. The search engine utilizes techniques for recognizing, transcribing, indexing, and automatic translation of audiovisual documents ant it will operate in several languages. There is also mention of automatic recognition and indexing of images.

Recognition of video usually means automatic voice recognition and search in the recognized text, like in the podcast and video search engine Podscope. What they mean by automatic recognition of images, however, will be very interesting to find out. Will Quaero to some extent be able to recognize the contents of an image? Any way it seems that Quaero has more advanced technology in this area than e.g. Yahoo! or Google.

Several companies are involved in the Quaero project along with Thompson. AFP’s article mentions Deutsche Telecom, France Telecom, and the search engine Exalead. This is very promising – Exalead has an interface that makes Google look out of date.

AFP also mentions some French and German research institutes: Inria (Institut national de la recherche en informatique et en automatique), IMSI-CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique), RWTH-Aachen och Universitetet i Karlsruhe. In addition there are content providers like INA (Institut National de l’Audiovisuel) and Studio Hamburg. There are ongoing negotiations with other partners.

Quareo means search in Latin and it will be exciting to do just that when Quero is launched. This will hopefully happen in spring.

Part 2 - Funding

The German publisher Heise reports that the European search engine project Quaero will receive some 400 million Euro (US$ 508 million) in new funding from the German and French governments and industry.

Given the ambitious objectives of the project, the funding is probably needed.

In the article Wolfgang Wahlster, the director of DFKI - The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence), is quoted as saying that Quaero is not only to deliver lists of search results. The service is also to give precise answers to questions.

Furthermore, the search engine will not only include web pages and scanned books, but also multimedia content like music and video.

Quaero is looking at various indexing techniques as social tagging and bookmarking, as well as the more traditional cataloging methodology used by the Semantic Web Project (the Semantic Web makes use of standards, markup languages and related processing tools for sorting web pages).

Social tagging is considered to be too chaotic by the Quaero teams, while the Semantic Web approach is found too top-down. Hence the idea is perhaps to improve and combine them both.

In one pilot study the idea is apparently to develop an automatic or semi-automatic method for adding semantic metadata to web content. As an example Wahlster mentions the use of image analysis. It is important to solve ambiguities like the tagging of a picture of a car with the word “Golf” (that’s a VW Rabbit for our American readers) so that the picture doesn’t show up in search results for a query related to the golf sport.

The German part of the project will, for instance, develop user interfaces capable of an intelligent dialogue between the search engine and the user. Different visualisation techniques will also be considered.

Wahlster does not like the Anti-Google image applied to Quaero in various articles (an image that French President Jacques Chirac and various French supporters probably find useful). According to Wahlster Google is stuck in the Web1.0 age whereas Quaero is not.

Besides Wahlster’s own institution, DFKI, German organisations and companies like the Fraunhofer Society, Siemens, SAP and Deutsche Bibliothek are involved. Fraunhofer, which owns the MP3 patent, is the leading organization for applied research in Europe with a staff of some 12400 people.

This article was originally published in Internetbrus, a Swedish blog on search engines and Internet searching that has been online since early 2001. It is written for both searchers and educators.

By Pandia Guest Writer Lars Våge,

Note: this is an archive only version of original article.